Miami Lakes

Judge sets date to hear arguments regarding Pizzi’s lawsuit

Photo illustration of Michael Pizzi, left, and Wayne Slaton
Photo illustration of Michael Pizzi, left, and Wayne Slaton Miami Herald Staff

On March 18, Miami Lakes residents will be one step closer to knowing for sure who their mayor is.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely set the date to hear arguments regarding former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi’s lawsuit to regain the mayoral position — something he’s been fighting for since he was acquitted of federal bribery charges last year.

Ultimately the suit, which contains seven counts, boils down to the question of who is entitled to the mayoral seat.

In January, Pizzi filed suit against Mayor Wayne Slaton, the Town of Miami Lakes and Town Clerk Marjorie Tejeda-Castillo in January, demanding his job as mayor back.

The town attempted to the entire case dismissed on Tuesday; however, the judge only dismissed two counts — including the one that was suing Tejeda-Castillo.

Lawyers for the town and Slaton have been given until March 2 to respond, in writing, to the remaining counts in suit.

Then on March 18, the courtroom showdown will occur.

Meanwhile, both sides were claiming victory Wednesday afternoon.

“The judge decided to focus on the legal issue — so we’re very happy with the outcome,” said town attorney, Raul Gastesi. “We’re confident. The town’s position is that the Charter speaks for itself and should be upheld.”

Pizzi is also celebrating.

“I won in federal court, I won in the Florida Supreme Court, and today the town’s motion to dismiss was denied — I just hope I continue on this winning streak,” he said. “I fully expect to be back in town hall, as mayor, by the end of March.”

The controversy over the Miami Lakes mayoral seat began in August 2013 when Pizzi was arrest on federal bribery charges while he was in the midst of completing his second four-year term in office, slated to expire in 2016.

Slaton won a special election in October 2013 — a victory that he and the town claim make him Pizzi’s permanent replacement.

In December, Gov. Rick Scott revoked Pizzi 's suspension, following a decision by the Florida Supreme Court. Neither Scott nor the high court reinstated Pizzi to the mayoral seat, as Pizzi never asked to be reinstated as mayor.

Pizzi filed suit to reclaim his seat in January after the town insisted that Slaton was its rightful mayor because the special election was binding

Next month’s court hearing will determine who the town’s mayor will be until the town’s 2016 election.